Bring Back Rohan

Rohan Perez with his mother, Rosemarie, at an appeals hearing in Israel on their deportation.
Meged Gozani

The operation to arrest and deport foreign workers from the Philippines is continuing with determination, as if the targets were dangerous criminals. On Sunday a couple and their two daughters, who were born in Israel, were arrested in order to be deported.

The protests against the deportations generally make humanitarian arguments, calling for the authorities to go beyond the letter of the law and allow the children to remain here because they were born here and have lived as Israelis in every way. But these deportations are not just immoral, they also fly in the face of Israeli and international law.

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Last week, Supreme Court Justice Alex Stein refused to allow an appeal of the district court to deport 13-year-old Rohan Perez from Israel to the Philippines. Since the district court ruling ignored Israeli law and the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory since 1991, Stein erred in not permitting a full examination of the arguments against Rohan’s deportation. The district court violated Israel’s obligations to make the best interests of the child the top priority in any legal decision regarding a child, and ignored the need to explain how the decision it made meets that criterion.

Based on professional opinions submitted in his case, it seems that it’s in Rohan Perez’s best interest to remain in Israel and that deporting him to the Philippines will cause him irreparable harm. Even worse, the child’s view was not heard during the discussions of his case, since he was not allowed to speak at the hearings. This contravenes both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Israeli law, which upholds the basic principle that every person has the right to express his opinion.

But the most serious offense committed by Israel in deporting Rohan and the other children slated for deportation is blatant discrimination prohibited by Israeli law. Under the international convention, the State of Israel is also committed to safeguarding the rights of all children under its jurisdiction without regard for race or national origins. Moreover, the state must protect all children from such discrimination. While one could argue that there is a difference between adults who are citizens or permanent residents and others who are not, this claim cannot be made about children, who cannot be held responsible for being in the country illegally.

Examining the decision to deport Rohan using legal criteria shows that by deporting him, Israel violated his rights, by virtue of his being a child – rights that are guaranteed by the international Convention on the Rights of the Child and by Israeli law. As such, both Rohan and his mother must be returned to Israel immediately. The threat of deportation must also be lifted from the other children until this invalid policy of deporting children from Israel is reevaluated, and until this government adopts the conclusion of previous governments not to deport children studying in the Israeli school system.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.